Audio Branding Guidelines

Today's extract from Sonic Branding: An Introduction takes us from the creative process to the development of musical guidelines.

Chapter 22 - Sonic Guidelines

The third component of the some brand identity is the guidelines document. In conjunction with the brand score and the sonic logo, this document should contain all the strategic, technical and creative information required to create expressions of the brand that are consistent with the identity and thereby relate back to the belief and values of the brand. Guidelines documents can vary greatly, dependent upon the scope for sonic branding exposed during the audit phase. Each sonic touchpoint will require its own guidelines and as a result, the document can become very weighty indeed.

Creatively, the guidelines should describe the sonic language, brand score and sonic logo adequately that two skilled composers could create new works that fit seamlessly with one another and have the desired emotional fit with the brand. The compositional guidelines, therefore, must include musically technical information such as the melodic and harmonic structure of the brand score and sonic logo. Standard musical notation is used to describe this.


Melody is defined as the series, one after another, of musical notes that make up a tune. Melody is the component of music that is most readily processed by our brains, requiring a low level of involvement from the listener to become recognizable and memorable. It is generally the melody of a piece of music that we will whistle after listening. It is rare, except for the most involved and trained musician, to remember and whistle a bass line or rhythm guitar part of a popular song.

Because of the ease and speed with which we remember melodies, this part of the identity is usually at the very heart of the sonic logo and always forms a major part of the brand score and guidelines.


If melody is the series of notes. defining harmony is to identify the notes that are placed in parallel, underneath the melody. Sonic guidelines are not always the place for advanced musical theory but some reference to the type of harmonies that are core to the identity is generally deemed useful. In this way, specific modes of harmony as might be archetypal of jazz or rock or classic styles can be defined for future reference.

Key signature

The key is a particularly important piece of information for establishing a creative platform that can be built upon independently by composers. The key of a piece of music describes which set of related notes have been used and the notes that can seamlessly be used in further work.

Simplistically, there are two types of key: major and minor. Major keys ound characteristically comfortable and minor keys are characteristically interesting.

Time signature

One other element of the compositional guidelines that is always included is the time signature, which defines the overall rhythmic feel of the brand score. Thus, by defining a key and a rhythm in the guidelines, we can help ensure that all subsequent sonic branding has a basis in the identity.

A full description of the sonic language is also desirable. This is the technical definition of the instruments used, including. Where applicable, the names of keyboards, sound modules or samplers and the settings employed. Again, this is very useful information for composers and ensures consistency in all new work.

On some occasions, for example where singing has been used as a part of the language, the contact details of an individual performer have been included in guidelines as they have provided a unique contribution to the sonic language. A specific vocal element may or may not become a key brand property but should it do so, it is important that future sonic branding can utilize the same voice and thus be consistent...

Daniel M. Jackson - CEO, CORD